How Utah members of Congress see the Mueller report

This article originally appeared in the Deseret News. Read it in its entirety here.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah members of Congress want to move on from special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report, but others in the state say not so fast — especially when it comes to obstruction of justice questions surrounding President Donald Trump.

Republicans and Democrats were digging into the redacted version of the 448-page report the U.S. Department of Justice released online Thursday.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said that his staff, as well as the House Intelligence Committee staff, were reviewing the document. Stewart is a member of the committee.

“Mr. Mueller conducted a detailed and thorough investigation that mirrors what we found in the House Intelligence investigation — no collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Stewart said. “Now that the American people know the truth, I look forward to moving beyond the political theatrics and coming together to work on behalf of the American people.”

Before the Justice Department made the report public, Stewart said he was confident it wouldn’t contain any bombshells and that it was “really unlikely that we would find something there that would shock people.”

Stewart and the rest of the Utah delegation accepted snippets of the report Attorney General William Barr released last month, including that Trump’s presidential campaign didn’t conspire with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and that there wasn’t evidence to charge him with obstruction of justice.

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said he’s looking forward to fully reviewing the report.

“I am pleased that special counsel Mueller was able to complete his investigation and is helping bring to justice those who allowed Russian meddling in the 2016 election,” he said. “If the conclusion remains that there is no further criminal wrongdoing, I think we should, as a country, move on and ensure that Russia cannot interfere again.”

Other local Democrats, though, weren’t so quick to let Trump off the hook.

Utah House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, slammed Barr in a tweet, saying the attorney general simply cannot be trusted as honest.

“He is either very sloppy or, much more likely, intentionally works to provide political cover for his superior,” King said. “And in this case, he unfortunately perceives his superior to be the president rather than the American people.”

King, an attorney, said the report is “not by any means a total exoneration” of the president and there are issues raised that need a further look. But he said Democrats need to focus on using the report to make the case against Trump’s re-election in 2020, rather than try to remove him from office.

“It’s not as definitive as many people would like,” he said. “That’s just the reality of how things work. It doesn’t very often happen that a bombshell comes down that changes significantly and dramatically the political landscape.”

Former Utah GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz said the report exonerates Trump.

“I think the Democrats are scrambling. I don’t think they know what to do. I think it is part of their demise and I think it’s a big part of why I think Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020,” he said on Fox News.

In a take on “Game of Thrones,” Trump tweeted, “No collusion. No Obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, seemed to join Trump on his victory lap, tweeting: “The Mueller report is finally available and it is definitive: there was no collusion.”

The investigation found that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign in “sweeping and systematic fashion.” But it concluded the meddling did not have the cooperation of Trump, his campaign or the “knowing assistance of any other Americans.”

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the special counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction. The report recounts 10 episodes involving Trump and discusses potential legal theories for connecting those actions to elements of an obstruction offense.

Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel was not sufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice.

Still, Barr earlier noted the special counsel found that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Stewart said Trump expressed his view and frustration with the investigation but that is not obstruction.

“If they didn’t bring an indictment, if they didn’t bring specific charges against the president, then I think we need to protect that presumption of innocence,” Stewart said on KSL Newsradio. “A statement of no exoneration does not imply guilt, but some people are reading that as if it implies guilt.”

Chase Thomas, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah, said he still has concerns about the evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice and other “troubling” behaviors.

Utah elected officials, he said, should be careful not to “whitewash” the report’s outcome.

“With the special counsel investigation complete, the baton is now in Congress’ hands to follow through and inquire further into some of the unanswered questions raised by the report,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the Deseret News. Read it in its entirety here. 

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